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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Skeet Basics
Leading the target

MWhat you're seeing isn't always what you're getting

Knowing how much lead to put on a moving target not only is often a mystery to the beginning shooter but often misunderstood even when known.

We can calculate exactly how much lead is required so that shot traveling at a given speed will meet a target traveling at a given speed at a given distance.

The math formula:

Lead = (Target Speed / Shot Speed) x Target Distance


All values must be in feet and feet-per-second (fps). Results are rounded to the nearest tenth.

Example, using typical Skeet range values:

Target Speed = 45 mph = 66 fps (1 mph = 1.466667 fps)
Shot Speed = 1200 fps
Distance at which target will be hit (Target Distance): 21 yards = 63 ft.

66 / 1200 = .055

.055 x 63 = 3.46 feet of lead (3 feet, 5-1/2 inches)


And that's where confusion often enters the picture. The confusion exists because of the difference between perceived lead and actual lead.

FACT (possibly startling): No matter which Skeet station you're on, if there's an angle involved and you wanted to break the target exactly over the center stake, you'd still need 3 feet, 5-1/2 inches of lead.

But from your point of view it won't be perceived to be that much and will vary according to the station from which you're shooting.

The example illustrated in this drawing shows why:



Of course, if you wanted to calculate the lead for breaking a target somewhere on its flight path other than over the center stake, you'd need to find the Target Distance from you to that break point.

But lead alone won't get it

Simply shooting ahead of the target the required distance is only the first half of the lead equation: The second half -- and equally if not more important -- is a good follow-through.

After the lead is established and the shot is made, stopping the gun will guarantee a miss just as surely as not leading the target enough. Conceivably, you could extend the lead far beyond what's necessary, stop the gun and still break the target. But that's just not the way to do it.

Follow-through is just a smooth continuation of the swing you've already established as you tracked the target. Keep your head on the gun and keep swinging until you're sure the shot's completed -- whether you hit or missed the target.

The importance of follow-through simply cannot be overemphasized.

Velocity: More isn't always better

As a general rule, 1200 fps is pretty much accepted as the standard velocity of shotshells used for Skeet.

But let's say your shotshell load delivers only 1100 fps. The lead required in the above examples would be 3.78 feet -- a mere 3-7/8 inches more than 1200 fps! And therein lies the fallacy in any thoughts that you need super hot loads for Skeet.

It's simply impractical, if not impossible, for a shooter to make such fine adjustments as he swings the gun on the moving target, and higher velocities may actually produce worse shot patterns than lower ones.

For solid target breaks, a good shot pattern at whatever velocity it occurs is much more desirable than higher velocity.
 

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Case;

You got way too much time on your hands! :wink:

I envy you! :roll:

Good job! I think I'm going to print this off and keep it with me in my Skeet gun case so I have something to show newbies on the Skeet range. Sometimes it is VERY difficult to get this through their heads!

BP
 

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Case, thanks for the info. Some folks think that using faster/slower ammo really changes things!!

It really is a simple game. Our minds just keep getting in the way! Don't THINK - just SHOOT!! :shock:
 

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You raise an interesting subject Case.

BTW...congrats on yet another well done presentation. Always impressed by your computer skills and the way you present various subjects on here with such detail...yet clarity. :)

However....further to this, I find it interesting to hear various shooters describe what they see....or what they believe they see.....in order to determine the proper lead and just exactly how they place the shot where it's supposed to be. What should we...or should we not be seeing? What should we...or should we not be looking at while trying to determine a correct lead?

I find when trying to explain leads to new shooters, many often have difficulty visualizing just what 3'..5 1/2" actually looks like. At 21 yards, against a clear blue sky, there is no point of reference from which to measure and what looks like 3.5' to one may look like 2' to another and 5' to yet another. Since there is no point of reference out there 21 yards away from which to measure other than the target itself, it can get rather confusing to new shooters.

Simply standing behind them and telling them to shoot 3' ahead of a target, travelling at say 45 MPH, 15 ft above the ground, against a clear blue sky, 21 yards away is very often a hard concept for them to grasp. Herein I find lies the difficulty when it comes to understanding where to place that shot.

The method I suggest and try to explain to new shooters then is to try to convert that 3.5' lead at 21 yards with no point of reference to something MUCH closer to the eye. That being the end of the barrel....utilizing the spacing between the barrel and the target.

Yes we all know that we are to keep our eye on the target and not look at the barrel when shooting, however....utilizing one's peripheral vision while continueing to watch the target....one can learn to gauge distances peripherally between the target and barrels. At least this way, one now has a point of reference from which to measure...one that is say....only approx 28" or 30" away from the eye.

Using some fairly simple trigonometry, one can quite easily determine that perhaps your 3'..5 1/2" lead at 21 yards might equate to a 3 1/2" space between the target and barrel end. I haven't done the math so I don't know that's exactly right, however I suspect it may be fairly close. Might be 3"....might be 4"...not real sure...would have to actually do the math.

But my point is....one now has a point of reference to measure from. And one that is easier for beginners to understand and use I believe.

Some time back, I tried to carry on a friendly discussion about this subject with someone....who shall remain nameless..but frequents many of the boards around. This person absolutely refused to even consider my philosophy and methodology, and rather than even try to understand what I was trying to convey became ignorant and arguementative started into name calling. Needless to say the discussion ended very abruptly.

That notwithstanding, I'm still always interested in hearing others' views on the subject and the various methodologies that may be used in order to determine proper shot placement.
 

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Good post, Case. As always........ :D

Your post needs to be added to skeet basic's sticky.
 

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Jeeeeze.... I lay down for a 2 hour nap (picked up a damn nasty cold :(^ ) and you dazzle us again!
You're right, it's a concept that's very hard to express, especially to a newbie. Couple of points -

Target speed... About a year ago I saw a chart that demonstrated how quickly target speed drops off from it's initial 42-45 mph. It was something like 35 mph by midfield, and in the low 30's when presented as a typical high 6. Of course I can't find that chart for the life of me now. 'Ol timers at work. I would suspect that accounting for a typical west wind (at least here), and the fact that the low house target is thrown "uphill", speeds probably drop off a bit faster on that target.

Break point... Taking into account that few break High 2 (maybe 40 mph) in the same place as they do High 6 or 7 (could be well less than 30 mph), wouldn't the fact that target speed scrubs off so dramatically as the target crosses midfield affect lead calculations significantly?

Assuming distance to the target remained constant (or even increased a bit), required lead would decrease as target speed drops.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Burnt Powder said:
You got way too much time on your hands! :wink:
Yean, ain't it amazing what one gets done when advancing age slightly curtails one's drinking, bar-hopping and womanizing.

Old Vet said:
Using some fairly simple trigonometry, one can quite easily determine that perhaps your 3'..5 1/2" lead at 21 yards might equate to a 3 1/2" space between the target and barrel end. I haven't done the math so I don't know that's exactly right, however I suspect it may be fairly close. Might be 3"....might be 4"...not real sure...would have to actually do the math.
I'm not sure how practical that would be and it might distract from the main job at hand, since there's a lot going on to coordinate the instant the target emerges from the house.

You've got to pick it up with your eyes, get the gun moving along with it, establish a lead, decide when to shoot, shoot, follow through -- all in about two seconds.

I'm not sure there's much, if any, time slot in all that to add comparisons of lead and barrel width.

There's also the problem that the perceived leads change on several stations.

The best method for initially showing a beginning Skeet shooter what lead is required at each station is to let him actually see it physically in the form of two 3-1/5- or 4-foot PVC pipes mounted one atop the other, one pointed along the target path of the high house, the other along the path of the low house.

The post on which those were mounted would be located at the center stake.

No matter what station he was on he'd see what you see in that little line up there in my drawing -- and he'd see it from the actual angle of his station.

The only failing of that, and it would be slight, is that not all targets are shot right over the center stake. But he'd get the idea and a pretty good picture of what is required.

Sooner or later, hopefully, he'd commit the different leads to memory and not need the crutch.

It's not all that technical anyway. After all, we're shooting shotguns which spew out a string of shot upwards of 12 feet long. In fact, in his instructional video Todd Bender comes just short of kissing off the subject of lead entirely.

That's why it's better to lead too much than too little -- the former will probably break the target; the latter will almost certainly guarantee a miss.

The bottom line is this: There's no simple solution. You just have to shoot enough and see what breaks the targets that leads at the different stations become second nature.

Mark...

My bottom line handles all that stuff.
 

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Excellent post Case, very impressive....as with Old Vet, I once tried to explain this concept (fixed actual lead vs perceived lead due to angular relationship) to someone and was met with adamant rejection. However, during my time in the USAF I was a radar intercept officer. This was just before AWACs became operational and, although we had a "automated" system, the good controllers still used a piece of clear plastic and a particular type of circular slide rule to calculate and draw the geometry of the intercept to include the position of the lead point (if you will). Although interceptor heading needed to stay on the intercept course changes with geometry, the point of termination of the intercept stayed the same (clearly the termination was not the target but some offset point..it was considered bad form to actually run aircraft into one another). It is a very similar type of geometrical problem as skeet (actually, almost identical).

All that said, I don't really find much of this knowledge particularly practical on the skeet field where I, as have others, have just had to find and reinforce what the picture looks like to me for various stations, for my choosen break point, given the geometry of my face, eye, and gun, etc.

Old Vet discussed how to get someone to see the picture for a target that is unique to them and I have always liked John Shima's method for beginners. He will stand 21 yds away, hold up his hands with a target in one of them, and after everybody confirms that the gun is empty, he will have the shooter point their gun at the empty hand while seeing the approximate "picture" of open space to his other hand holding the target. This at least gets the beginner in the ball park of what they want to actually see for any given "percieved lead".

I can't prove it, however, but I have always felt that "lead" is often over emphasized at the expense of matching and maintaining gun speed with target speed. Given the size of the pattern, I intuitively feel that more of my misses are due to not keeping good gun speed completely through the shot rather than not seeing the right lead. This goes to the need for follow through which, I think, is primarily a technique for ensuring that you maintain gun speed (and hence eye on the target) throughout the shot...after the shot, follow through doesn't do a thing...but in going for a good follow through the result is maintaining gun speed and eye on the bird as the shot is made.

Cheers
 

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"Baron23"]"All that said, I don't really find much of this knowledge particularly practical on the skeet field."

Hard to use the wizz-wheel between shots on doubles. :D :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Baron23 said:
...I have always liked John Shima's method for beginners. He will stand 21 yds away, hold up his hands with a target in one of them, and after everybody confirms that the gun is empty, he will have the shooter point their gun at the empty hand while seeing the approximate "picture" of open space to his other hand holding the target. This at least gets the beginner in the ball park of what they want to actually see for any given "percieved lead".
Same show-and-tell as the PVC pipes. The problem -- and the reason for this topic -- is that when someone tells the beginning shooter to lead Station 2 about a foot and a half or two feet the beginner thinks that lead is actually what breaks Station 2.

They simply don't know -- and no one tells them -- that the required lead is the same for every station -- about three and a half to four feet -- and the only difference from station to station is their point of view.

Knowing the "why" behind something helps with understanding.

I guarantee you the average shooter has no concept of that.

I can't prove it, however, but I have always felt that "lead" is often over emphasized at the expense of matching and maintaining gun speed with target speed. Given the size of the pattern, I intuitively feel that more of my misses are due to not keeping good gun speed completely through the shot rather than not seeing the right lead.
I'd say they all go hand in hand and lack of consistency in each of those will cause missed targets.

This goes to the need for follow through which, I think, is primarily a technique for ensuring that you maintain gun speed (and hence eye on the target) throughout the shot...after the shot, follow through doesn't do a thing...but in going for a good follow through the result is maintaining gun speed and eye on the bird as the shot is made.
No, when you pull the trigger follow-through is not going to swing the shot string farther out in front of the target.

But stop the gun right after you pull the trigger and I guarantee you'll miss the target. It's the first, worst fault of virtually every beginning shooter I've ever watched.

Follow-through is an integral element of every physical sport I can think of -- pitching a baseball, swinging a golf club, pole vaulting, jumping horses in a steeplechase...even stationary position rifle shooting.

When I was on a varsity rifle team, the coach never shut up about follow-through and not "jerking the trigger." And he was right. The trigger pull must be squeezed, with follow-through, and the rifle must be held to the target after the shot. May not seem like it, but that's still follow-through.

It's necessary to create a smooth continuum of the momentum of whatever action is involved and without it the action becomes jerky and uncoordinated.

It cannot be overemphasized.
 

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Hi Case - I re-read my post and I'm afraid I may have written a bit too fast....I would like to re-emphasize that I think your post was excellent. My comment about actual leads not having too practical a value on the filed looks to me in retrospect as sounding dismissive of the discussion, which is far, far from the truth. Your post is one of the clearest most analytical on the subject that I have seen and I continue in my compliments to you.

With respect to follow through, yes, almost every sport has follow through as part of proper form. But at the risk of being repetitive, I believe that real goal of attempting a good follow through is that you maintain a good swing thru the specific instant of the shot. Because we are subject to the laws of momentum, to do that means that you must take as a goal to swing well past the shot (follow thru), but once the shot leaves the barrel, follow thru has no impact on the shot string, hence no impact on the result. BUT, in trying to follow thru on the swing in general, then for that micro-second of the actual shot my barrel is maintaining both lead and swing.

I practice a rather exagerated follow through...it helps with keeping my head on the gun after the shot and keeping a good swing thru the shot. But I believe that when we all see someone who does not follow thru and therefore misses the shot,they did not miss because they stopped after the shot with little follow thru but in fact actually stopped before or in the midst of the shot. I don't think we are saying anything really different, an intentional follow thru will ensure eye on the bird and smooth gun movement right thru the point where the shot leaves the barrel.

Cheers and boy have I worn this topic out well beyond what it deserves :lol:
 

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I continue to prove to myself that follow through is important. Last Sat. I shoot 4 rounds of Skeet with 3 different guns. I never missed a low 6 on any of the doubles, but I never saw one of them actually break either. I swung through the rock and continued the followthrough during and after the shot while I had already shifted my eyes back to the right to pick up the high house coming at me. I suppose that isn't the right way to do it, but.... It seems to work for me. Obviously it wasn't because I was looking at the rock as it broke that I broke it. I've just been analyzing that shot in my mind for weeks and think I finaly figured it out. Now if I could just figure out what the heck I'm doing wrong on High 2? Missed it 3 times on both of the first 2 rounds with my new Beretta 12 ga. Must be the new gun thing? :cry: 20 and 28, POOF!

BP
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Baron23 said:
I practice a rather exagerated follow through.
For years, mine was so exagerated I'd occasionally hurl myself off the pad. Some of the ******** at my old gun club called me "360" -- as in degrees of compass.

Yeah, we're on the same page here, Stephen.

It's the beginners who frequently aren't.

Burnt Powder said:
Now if I could just figure out what the heck I'm doing wrong on High 2? Missed it 3 times on both of the first 2 rounds with my new Beretta 12 ga. Must be the new gun thing? :cry: 20 and 28, POOF!
Could be the new gun thing, but that station's a beast.

The only way to shoot it is to forget lead and just get in front of it and shoot, then keep the gun swinging.

You'll nail it every time.
 

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Great post.
I'm Native American. I just pray " Oh Great Spirit, let me kill clean or miss clean. And please help me not embarrass myself too much in front of my friends."
 

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Case;

Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't! Usually when I miss high 2 it is becaue I'm too far ahead of it! Broke it each time with the 20 and 28 ga though! Go figure?

BP
 

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Hi Case - I'll remember that "ole' 360" bit...that's funny. The guy I like to watch for follow through is Larry Woo. Now, I'm neither as good nor as dramatic as Larry, but trying to approach what he does helps with my follow through. When Larry completes a shot he follows through and then pauses, (poses??) with the gun mounted (that's the dramatic part). One of my worst bad habits is lifting my head up after the shot and a bit of a pose gets me in the habit of staying down.

Burnt Powder - I have never seen you shot but boy, oh boy do I have experience with going through tough times with high 2. I also believe that whenever I miss I am usually in front but the real problem for me is too much gun speed (there I go again on that subject). I used to hold parallel or just a little beyond, look all the way back to the hole, see the blur as its comes out of the house as a 90 degree crosser and take off like a bat out of you know where. Fractions of a second later and by 2/3's of the way to the center stake, I would ge going too fast for what has turned into a quartering away shot and there is no slowing down. I now hold well out (almost to the stake) and look at a point in space parallel to the house (many folks hold point). This way I see a clear bird after the blur part is over and match up to a good solid speed. I seem to have worked my way out of the high two problem this way and, like Case suggests, I never really see the lead. I know I'm a little in front to start, I know that I keep the barrel to the right of the bird, but I am looking so hard at the bird and trying to move exactly with it that I don't really see a hard lead. Also, I have now made a habit of ensuring my hold point is lower than I often think it should be. Bottom of the window and no higher, ever. High 2, especially when you hold well out, seems like an easy target to have a too high hold point.

Cheers
 

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ShootingStar said:
wouldn't the fact that target speed scrubs off so dramatically as the target crosses midfield affect lead calculations significantly?
That probably would affect lead calculations significantly if it were the ONLY significant change. However, the shot velocity drops off just as dramatically. A load of small shot that leaves the muzzle at 1200 fps will be traveling just over 800 fps when it gets 22 yards from the muzzle. Therefore, the decrease in speed of the target and the decrease in the speed of the shot will just about cancel each other out (for all practical purposes) when calculating the required lead.

One thing I would add is that this method of calculating lead is for "Sustained Lead" shooters only. Shooters like me who shoot most skeet targets with the "Swing Through" method will generally see very little if any lead.
 

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Target speed... About a year ago I saw a chart that demonstrated how quickly target speed drops off from it's initial 42-45 mph. It was something like 35 mph by midfield, and in the low 30's when presented as a typical high 6.
A load of small shot that leaves the muzzle at 1200 fps will be traveling just over 800 fps when it gets 22 yards from the muzzle.
So if all this is true...what then happens to the calculations and this theory?

the required lead is the same for every station -- about three and a half to four feet
Baron

I have always liked John Shima's method for beginners. He will stand 21 yds away, hold up his hands with a target in one of them, and after everybody confirms that the gun is empty, he will have the shooter point their gun at the empty hand while seeing the approximate "picture" of open space to his other hand holding the target.
This sounds like it may be helpful to some extent for some new shooters....maybe even most.

Unfortunately I suspect most new shooters don't have access to Mr Shima to view this demonstration. And once he is gone....those that have viewed this no longer have the benefit of his left hand as a "point of reference" from which to measure distances. Hence my theory of using the barrels in ones' peripheral vision as a point of reference.

I'm not saying it's right....I'm not saying it's wrong. Just the easiest way I can think of to explain the sight picture one needs to see in order to place the shot in the right place. And when I explain it this way to beginners I find that it seems easier for them to understand than telling them to shoot 3 or 4 feet ahead of the target.

I think Case summed it up pretty well this way:

The bottom line is this: There's no simple solution. You just have to shoot enough and see what breaks the targets that leads at the different stations become second nature.
But beginners need to have the sight picture they need to see explained to them, then they have to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more in order to get that sight picture engrained into their mind's eye.
 

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ShootingStar said:
J

Target speed... About a year ago I saw a chart that demonstrated how quickly target speed drops off from it's initial 42-45 mph. It was something like 35 mph by midfield, and in the low 30's when presented as a typical high 6. Of course I can't find that chart for the life of me now. 'Ol timers at work. I would suspect that accounting for a typical west wind (at least here), and the fact that the low house target is thrown "uphill", speeds probably drop off a bit faster on that target.

quote]

Your comment about station six reminded me of a video that I recently saw. It was shot from 5 or 6 and used to measure speed of the target. The targets were properly set on a day with no wind. The initial velocity of the low house target was 44.7 mph at 7 yds in front of the center stake it was 35 mph and at the center stake it was 31 mph. The high house at the center stake was 27.5 mph at 3 yrds past the center stake it was 25 mph and at 6 yds past it was down to 18.6 mph.

It pointed out something I had never thought of. With the high house starting 10 ft up it requires less velocity to reach the stake than the low house starting 6 1/2 ft lower.

by Baron23

I practice a rather exagerated follow through...
I took a lesson this spring from a very renown skeet shooter. One of the things I was scolded on was my follow thru (way to much) and I didn't think I was like many. His position was stay in the gun and on the target until it breaks, and not a micro second longer.
 

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pop-a-cap wrote:

I took a lesson this spring from a very renown skeet shooter.
His position was stay in the gun and on the target until it breaks, and not a micro second longer.
Be interesting to know who that renowned skeet shooter is.

No doubt there will be varying opinions on this however I tend to agree.

I was at a shoot last fall at a club I'd never been to before. Enjoyed it very much and met some great people. However, more than one person there who never saw me shoot before commented on how quickly I "come out of the gun".

Rightly or wrongly I'm afraid I've developed a certain style over the years and I'm likely too old to change it now. As far as I'm concerned....if everything looks right leading up to the shot...and everything looks right during the shot....once that trigger is pulled...there's no changing the end result...no matter how long the follow through. "shrug" :roll: But that's just me. I don't know that I'd recommend coming out of the gun as quickly as I do to a new shooter.
 
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